How Sex, Politics, Money and Religion are Killing Planet Earth

Monday, November 1, 2010

Censoring Reasonableness – On the Ground at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

“We live now in hard times, not end times (Jon Stewart, the Rally to Restore Sanity, Washington DC, October 30, 2010).”

Sanity is alive and well in America. Of course you would never know this to be true by watching the “news” on television. On Saturday, October 30th, 2010, over 200,000 sane, happy, rational people gathered at the National Mall in Washington DC to celebrate reasonableness.

By National Parks Service estimates, the Rally to Restore Sanity was the best attended (by far) event on the National Mall since the inauguration of
President Barack Obama drew in crowds of close to a million people. It was certainly better attended than Glen Beck’s Rally to Restore Honor, which the Parks Service estimated at just over 70,000 or the Democratic Rally earlier this month, which hardly bears mentioning.

Attending the rally has restored my faith in the American people. Throughout the day, packed like sardines in our nation’s capital, everybody was in an upbeat and wonderful mood. Angry protests, hateful rants or even nasty signage were entirely absent. The signs I saw, with the exception of two, were light-hearted and creative. There were plenty of laughs throughout the day and everybody was generous and kind with one another and strikingly, boringly normal. The sheer numbers of attendees made me think, ‘wow, maybe most Americans are really thoughtful and reasonable after all.’

After I got home, I realized if I had not attended the rally and had relied on the news media to inform me, I would have missed my delightful epiphany completely. The mainstream media not only missed the point but, in many cases, they missed the rally entirely. In fact the major news networks ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and even NPR explicitly forbade their employees from attending the rally. NPR later clarified that all employees with the exception of those covering the rally were banned. One must wonder why major news organizations would want to censor their employees from a rally dedicated to reasonableness. I guess they don’t want the word to get out that most people are actually not fanatics. It might ruin their business.

“The country’s 24 hour politico pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder.

The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus illuminating issues heretofore unseen, or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire. And then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden unexpected dangerous flaming ants epidemic.

If we amplify everything, we hear nothing (Jon Stewart, Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear).”

A conservative commentator stated that the massive audience was made up of DC locals, whereas, in their opinion, the Beck rally was filled with people from across America (“real” Americans). My view: the shuttle bus we took to the rally had one guy from Canada, one guy from Belgium, a couple from Colorado, three people from North Carolina and two from Kentucky who were most definitely opposed to head stomping as a form of political discourse. All the people I spoke to in the crowd had traveled great distances to come to the rally. Many were from California. I did not meet a single person from Washington DC until I was on the Metro back to my hotel.

A liberal columnist thought the rally was all about liberals trying to prove they are smarter than conservatives (1). The crowd was refreshingly intelligent, but I never got the impression that their aim was to score any one-upmanship.

Most of the major news television stations offered thirty second summaries, which basically dismissed the entire event as a comedy show. They must have missed the lesson in High School English class where the “fool” is an archetypal bearer of wisdom and truth. Read Shakespeare people.

To ABC’s credit, This Week with Christiane Amanpour dedicated their round table discussion to what they determined to be the rally’s theme – civil discourse. And civil discourse was certainly part of the day’s take home message, but sadly or deliberately ABC seemed to miss the most obvious point. The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was a direct commentary on our current political situation and how the media filters information to invoke sensation and fear. Hundreds of thousands of people coming together in the interest of sanity and reasonableness speaks boldly to an American electorate suffering from sensational media fatigue and desperately seeking meaningful political commentary.

In reality, we all see the world through our own lens of truth, and we all have our own agenda. Writer Derrick Jensen notes that all writing is propaganda, as no two individuals can see a view of the world in exactly the same way (2). We all amplify the details that are most important to us while simultaneously ignoring those things we either don’t want to acknowledge or are simply too distracted to see. Media is like us, but it also distorts perspective to an extreme because media has a rabid agenda. Television news shows need viewers to be able to get corporate sponsorship, so they sensationalize to get our attention. They are also then limited to a large extent by those same sponsors from publicizing anything that might be in conflict with the corporate agenda. The resultant media messages are often like holographic images reflecting reality but still a false imitation of it.

Because truth is in the eye of the beholder, we should not just take anyone else’s words at face value. We must seek truth for ourselves by turning off the mind-numbing TV and instead becomming active participants in life, taking in as much information as possible from as many sources as possible and drawing our own conclusions. If we could all step back from the media circus and do this, sanity would be restored in the United States of America.



2- See Endgame Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization by Derrick Jensen.


  1. Hi - a friend pointed me towards your blog. I just thought I'd mention that most news organizations, not just NPR, have historically had in principle the sort of policy that everyone is making fun of NPR for. This is because of the largely mythical principle of media neutrality.

    In reality, of course, most media has classically been as neutral as a vat of acid.

    However, to maintain the myth of cherished news neutrality (and to try to cut off accusations of bias), almost all news organizations have had a ban on their news reporters and analysts from attending partisan events personally -- of course, those covering the event may go.

  2. It might be useful to take note of which events news reporters actually attended if they were allowed. Then their true orientations would perhaps be visible rather than hidden behind the slanted rhetoric of their pens. Stewart and Colbert of course declared the event non-partisan, and I actually think they were successful in keeping it that way. But, I also believe everyone knows where their political loyalties lie. Thank you very much for your clarification.

  3. I think it's interesting, actually, that the US has had such a large history of news organizations that try to maintain a facade of non-bias. I live in the UK at the moment, and most newspapers here are quite obvious about their biases.

    The Telegraph is "The Torygraph", for instance, and the Guardian is well known for it's slant towards the left, etc. Amusingly, when I asked my English partner if there was a nickname for the Daily Mail, he deadpanned, "There is no affectionate nickname for the Daily Mail." And then there's the famous old joke that made it into popular series Yes Minister:

    Hacker: Don't tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers: the Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.
    Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?
    Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits.

    On the other hand, television news in the UK is seen as having more probity and non-bias.

    Mirror image? :)

    I'm having an interesting time reading through your blog, thanks!

  4. I'll provide a link on my blog. This is great stuff!

    All the best,

    Tom Degan